Elections and the expenditure entailing it have left parties with a lot to digest, literally.
Courtesy the Election Commission and its price chart on every aspect on the campaign trail, parties have been forced to cut down on several “needs”. One of these is the lavish meals offered to party workers during electioneering.
There was a time — even during the 2009 elections when inflation was around 9 per cent — when party offices doubled as a platter of lavish meals. Now, with the rate hovering around 6.7 per cent, not so much. The poll panel, this time, has issued a dossier of price chart for every item purchased for electioneering. It is also maintaining a strict vigil on poll expenditure. The strict control has led the political parties to massively cut down on canvassing expenses, including feeding party workers.
The new norms put in place by the Election Commission replicate a “Bihar model” of 2010 (Assembly elections). Narrowing down the candidates’ options, it squeezes them within the expenditure limit imposed on each seat.
State BJP spokesperson and newly elected MLC Sanjay Prakash Mayukh said: “We are continuously furnishing the poll-canvassing expenditure to the Election Commission in which we have to list everything. So far as food is concerned, we are only offering tea to the party workers coming to the office.”
Sources, however, claimed the office-bearers are being served full course meals — from breakfast to dinner.
Other parties are also watching their wallets. Tea, samosas, groundnuts and beaten rice have replaced lavish snacks, chicken and mutton biryani during election meetings.
A senior JD(U) leader told The Telegraph: “Getting good food used to be one of the main factors for workers at the grassroots level to frequent the party offices and election rallies. The party offices used to hire cooks or get food packed from restaurants. The situation although drastically changed since the last general election. Now, many such luxuries have been curtailed to keep tabs on the poll expenditure limit set by the Election Commission.” The responsibility to keep tabs on the expenditure limit is on the district administration though.
Patna district magistrate-cum-district election officer N. Saravana Kumar said: “A list of 150 items has been provided to political parties, along with the market price specified. However, there have been several incidents when candidates have been found to submit poll expenditure under-quoting the notified market price. Officials have been directed to ensure this practice is checked.”